Throughout the offseason, the Royals had been connected to quite a number of starting pitchers, virtually all of which were reclamation projects in some manner. Yet, each of those pitchers – from Josh Johnson to Tim Hudson to recent Twins signing Phil Hughes – all signed with other teams. Instead, the Royals signed Jason Vargas, a pitcher that they were not thought to have any real interest in until just before he was signed.
Vargas and Hughes both received the same amount of money per season, with Vargas getting a 4 year/$32 Million contract and Hughes signing for 3 years at $24 Million. Essentially, the difference in the contracts was an extra year for Vargas.
There are striking similarities between both pitchers. Vargas and Hughes are both extreme fly ball pitchers, needing to pitch in larger ballparks to find success. Both pitchers have been hurt by smaller ballparks over the years, and seemingly need a strong defensive outfield to be successful.
Yet, there are differences as well. Jason Vargas is essentially what he is at this point, and is unlikely to suddenly become any better. What he is happens to be a veteran innings eater who is just about league average. Over the past four seasons, pitching for the Angels and the Mariners, Vargas has averaged a 10-11 record with a 3.97 ERA, with 190 innings per season.
Phil Hughes, meanwhile, has not been nearly as consistent, alternating solid seasons with absolutely abysmal performances. During the same four seasons, Hughes has averaged an 11-10 record with a 4.65 ERA, while spending part of the 2011 season on the disabled list with a ‘dead arm.’ Hughes is also four years younger than Vargas, and has made an All-Star game during his career.
That may have been the question that the Royals asked themselves – whether or not the more consistent, but unspectacular, Vargas was a better investment than Hughes, who could have a much higher upside than anything Vargas could provide.
In the end, both pitchers received similar contracts, with Vargas getting that extra season. Knowing what both pitchers ended up receiving, I now ask you all – which pitcher would you have preferred, Jason Vargas or Phil Hughes?